City needs 5- to 7-year budgeting plan
5/10/2019, 6 a.m.
Re “Balancing act: Richmond City Council designs a new budget that places a 50 cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes, increases funding for schools and expands bus service while giving city employees a 3 percent raise,” Free Press May 2-4 edition:
Richmond City Council was presented with a bold, aggressive budget proposal with the top priorities put up front. We, the council members, all agreed to the priorities, even though we differed in the sources of funding.
The goal of including virtually all of those priorities in a balanced budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year that will begin July 1 has been achieved, but the final product is shortsighted. It is essential that the members of council work together to have at least a five- to seven-year budget plan.
It is not acceptable to fund critical needs for one year without an obligation to future-year funding. Establishing processes to fund infrastructure beyond one year is mandatory.
Are we planning to set expectations, fully fund the obligations and evaluate outcomes? Will equity disparity really be addressed? Will schools need an additional $30 million in each of the next five years? Are we obligated to performance-achieving budgets?
We must think more about processes, obligations and evaluations to make budgeting more than a one-year plan.
In the budget City Council will pass, we conspicuously did not do enough for deferred maintenance. In many cases, the budget should include a plan for replacement of buildings. The cost of maintenance needs to be critically analyzed to determine when replacement is required. We also must create a funding strategy that dedicates a set percentage of revenues to ensure yearly funding for infrastructure.
What should residents expect to see? We should survey and find out what residents expect. The council should require our staff, our administration, our departments and Richmond Public Schools officials to present an outcome-based achievement plan by July 1 that clearly gives residents information on what they should expect based on this budget.
Our focus needs to be on achieving results. We also need to plan for ways to grow the city. Our successes today have been achieved largely through strategic economic planning and development.
We need to focus on growing equitable job opportunities; enhancing our workforce; fair, inclusive housing; and planning for our future growth to meet revenue demands and remain a competitive place to live and work.
ELLEN F. ROBERTSON
The writer represents the 6th District on Richmond City Council.